Why Are We Talking About the New Office 365 Authoring Tools Again?

Benjamin Niaulin had some great insight into the Office 365 Site Collection called Hub

Marc Anderson

by Marc D Anderson on 6/17/2015

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Article Details

Date Revised:
6/17/2015

Applies to:
Authoring Tools, Office 365, PointPublishing, pointPublishingAppControl, Portals managed path, responsive, SharePoint Online, SPA, VideoEmbedHost


In our CollabTalk #6 webinar, June 17, 2015, Benjamin Niaulin was talking about how the some of the capabilities in the new authoring tools are set up. I found this particularly fascinating for several reasons.

Let me give you a quick overview of what Ben was describing. Full disclaimer: Ben did all the detective work on this and I’m only smart about this because he explained it in the webinar. You can read Ben's blog, Office 365 Delve Blogs Explained for more insight.

Office 365 has a new Site Collection called Hub that you can find at /portals/hub/ in your Office 365 tenant. Assuming you have permission to get there, you can see a Document Library in that Site Collection at /portals/hub/AppPages/Forms/AllItems.aspx. Right now, you’ll only see two pages in that Document Library, PointPublishing and VideoEmbedHost.

PointPublishing

This page drives the new authoring experience behind the Stories link in your profile as well as in some places in the Video Portal. This may not be available in your tenant yet unless you have chosen First Release. (See: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Office-365-release-options-3B3ADFA4-1777-4FF0-B606-FB8732101F47 for details on the release options.)

Depending on your theme settings and a few other things, it’ll look something like this. (Expect to see your image and name, not mine!)

The PointPublishing page drives the Stories link in your Office 365 profile.

VideoEmbedHost

This page is used by the Video Portal, but we’re not exactly sure how.

So, we have this new Hub Site Collection and these two tiny pages in it. When I say tiny, I really mean tiny. Here are the entire contents of the PointPublishing.aspx page.

<%@ Assembly Name="Microsoft.SharePoint.Portal, Version=16.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c"%> <%@ Page Language="C#" Inherits="Microsoft.SharePoint.Portal.WebControls.PointPublishingMainPage"       %> <%@ Import Namespace="Microsoft.SharePoint.Portal.WebControls" %> <%@ Register Tagprefix="SharePoint" Namespace="Microsoft.SharePoint.WebControls" Assembly="Microsoft.SharePoint, Version=16.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c" %> <%@ Register Tagprefix="Utilities" Namespace="Microsoft.SharePoint.Utilities" Assembly="Microsoft.SharePoint, Version=16.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c" %> <%@ Import Namespace="Microsoft.SharePoint" %> <%@ Assembly Name="Microsoft.Web.CommandUI, Version=16.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c" %>

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="<%$Resources:wss,language_value%>" dir="<%$Resources:wss,multipages_direction_dir_value%>" runat="server">

<head>
    <asp:Literal id="HeadBlock" runat="server" />
</head>

<body>
<asp:Literal id="PageScriptBlock" runat="server" />

<div id="pointPublishingAppControl" class="overallContainer"></div>

<asp:Literal id="PageStartupBlock" runat="server" />

</body>
</html>

How can a page that small serve any purpose, you might wonder? Well, the main thing that matters in the page is that lone div:

<div id="pointPublishingAppControl" class="overallContainer"></div>

That div is the container into which Office 365 pours the Single Page Application (SPA) that you are using when you are editing.

This shows us that Microsoft is using “modern” development techniques and that SPAs are part of our Office 365 future. That’s what I would hope to see because it ratchets up the User Experience (UX) considerably, and the UX in SharePoint has always been an issue for people.

The other thing that Ben covered was that the content we edit in the PointPublishing page goes into a hidden Site Collection per user under the Portals managed path. This is where our Stories will be stored. Each Story is saved as a JSON file and the PointPublishing page pulls that content into its SPA as needed, whether we are editing it or someone is viewing it.

This is the part that got me really excited. Because the content is stored in a JSON file and it’s rendered in a SPA, the responsive aspects of those pages can work well and fluidly. This is a HUGE step forward from the old SharePoint architecture we’ve been dealing with for the last, what – 13 years?

Ben and I agreed that we expect to see more SPA-containing pages showing up in the /portals/hub/AppPages/Forms/AllItems.aspx location, but in actuality since the PointPublishing page is basically just a container into which we can pour different SPAs, maybe we don’t need more pages. But it could be a scaffolding that we use to develop our own flavor of this sort of interface. I think time will tell on that.

Also, because the content is stored in a flexible JSON format, we may be heading to what I think of as the Holy Grail of Content Management: real write-once-view-anywhere capabilities. We’ve been trying to do this effectively for years with the SharePoint Publishing Model, but it just couldn’t take us far enough. With this fundamental re-architecting of the Content Management idea, I can see that we’re getting to a world where the grail is attainable.

Now *that* was an exciting conversation!

I invite you to watch the episode of CollabTalk because it was a good one. If you just want to see Ben’s explanation, jump ahead to around 48 minutes into the video.


Topic: Development

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